UI and Addons: Part I – Combat
After my last post about UI design, I’m sure you’re expecting me to show you a brilliant, flawless UI. Prepare to be disappointed! Creating a good UI is a continuous process. It’s also a very personal and subjective thing, so what works for me may make you shudder. I know I still have a long way to go. I can talk big, but implementing my own suggestions is another thing entirely.
I am going to share with you a quick rundown of my redesigned UI (which has changed even since I wrote the first draft of this post). I’ve divided this into two parts in an effort to reduce the massive wall of text. This first post will focus on UI elements and addons that are helpful while in raiding or running heroics. The second will consist of other quality-of-life addons that I cannot live without, but don’t really help during combat.
Here’s two screenshots of my UI, the first on a healing character and the second on my rogue. I completely fail at taking screenshots during raids, but this will at least give you an idea of how it all comes together.
The first thing to get tossed out the window was the default bar — those eagles have been consuming precious space for far too long. I grabbed Bartender4, which was very easy to setup. I have a bar on the left for quest items, professions, and other things that don’t need a hotkey. That bar will fade out unless I hover over it, maximizing my visible space while in combat.
The bottom two bars are filled with crucial combat related abilities, as well as health potions, and my mount. All the bars have easily adjustable sizing, spacing, and alignment. One neat feature is that abilities will turn red when you can’t cast them — such as when you’re out of range of a target. I use the default hotkeys for combat as well as a few additional ones on the upper bar with a random assortment of keys that are easy to reach (I’m still working on that, so don’t judge my weird keybind choices please).
Unit frames were the other key change I had to make. This is something I’ve resisted for a long time. I played with other unit frames before and uninstalled them in a fluster. My biggest issue was the display of combo points — I couldn’t figure out how to get them to display with Pitbull or whatever I had tried before, and so I gave up on the idea. This time I knew I had to try harder. Having myself and my target on the upper side of the screen seemed inefficient, as I had to constantly glance back and forth between the unit frames, cooldowns, cast bars, etc.
There are a ton of unit frame addons out there, but I chose Shadowed Unit Frames at the advice of Jardal. It is supposedly easier to configure than Pitbull or Xperl. I didn’t have any trouble with it – you can easily position each type of unit by simply dragging them. The configuration options are very extensive, but it works quite well out of the box. The combo points automatically display as little yellow blocks at the bottom of your target frame. Shaman totems similarly show up as four colored blocks on the bottom of your player frame that grow smaller as their time runs out.
I placed myself and my target at the bottom of my screen, above my cast bar and action bar. I turned off the raid frames as I don’t need them — I use grid for healing. For 5-man groups my party is to the left side of the screen, with my focus target beneath them.
You can configure what buffs/debuffs show on these units easily.
Quartz is a recent addition to my addon arsenal – it is a configurable cast bar that can show latency, and the global cooldown. The global cooldown is fantastic — by default a little white blip that crosses your screen. You can customize cast bars for targets and focus targets as well as yourself — I didn’t need this feature as Shadowed Unit Frames already does what I need there. It might be helpful though for certain boss abilities to have the cast bar appear in the center of the screen (especially if you’re assigned to interrupts).
These are buffs and debuffs you want to know about, and they should be situated in a place your eyes can quickly glance at. As a mutilate rogue I need to know that my Hunger for Blood and Slice and Dice are up, as well as keeping an eye on my Envenom uptime. As a elemental shaman you need to know that Flame Shock is still ticking so you can throw out that critical Lava Burst.
This was one of the more difficult decisions for me on what addon to use. I flipped back and forth several times between the Quartz Procs module and the ClassTimer addon. I ended up going with Quartz Procs because I liked the integration with Quartz. It is functional for any class as far as I know, and works very well by default (although position takes a little fidgeting).
Damage Meters/ Threat Meters
I recently switched to Skada from the traditional Recount + Omen combo. It’s a very lightweight addon, and quite easy to use. I have mine set to show threat meters while I’m in combat, and DPS or Healing at the end of the fight. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and captures all the data I need in an accurate way. I find it easier in Skada than in Recount to flip around from looking at DPS to Damage Taken to Healing, etc. It is a great, minimalistic tool for analyzing what’s going on in a raid.
*notice the rogue who is failing to use ToT to help her threat level
Deadly Boss Mods (DBM) is an addon that I cannot live without. Unless you’re passionate about making things pure and hardcore, I can’t see why anyone would want to raid without this addon (or its alternatives such as BigWigs or Deus Vox). I placed my DBM timers on the right side of my screen under my buffs/debuffs. When something really important happens a notification flashes in the middle of my screen and plays a warning noise.
TidyPlates + ThreatPlates — I find this crucial for those few times I tank, and it’s even helpful as a DPS because you know right away you’ve pulled threat when that nameplate turns red large and angry looking.
I use Grid in combination with Clique for healing. It’s very configureable and allows you to see debuffs, buffs, incoming heals, threat, etc. I also found it useful when tanking to quickly target a DPS who has threat problems and taunt off them. It’s a little bit of work to set up, but none of the other healing addons I’ve tried work out of the box well either.
Parrot is pretty combat text that scrolls across your screen in a nice arc. It is nice confirmation that things are working properly — I know I’m hitting the mob or healing my target. I can also see easily things like how much my shaman’s Lava Burst crits for without rummaging through the combat log. Plus… it just makes me happy. I know that minimalists would consider it distracting, but I love it.
I have a shaman addon called Totem Timers that is a nice replacement to the default totem bar. It allows you to hotkey practicaly everything. Currently I hotkey SHIFT-a, SHIFT-f, SHIFT-e, and SHIFT-w to open up the air, fire, earth and water menus respectively, and then each totem has it’s own number. So if i want to cast my fire elemental while I’m in combat I just hit SHIFT-f, then 1.
TT also includes a little bar to monitor your weapon buff, shield, and reincarnate timer.
On my rogue I grabbed a simple addon called Mojo Poisons to scream at me if I don’t have my poisons on – these warnings will pop up in huge flashing text in the middle of my screen.
That’s it for part one of UI Design. Overall I’m fairly happy with it, but I will continue to tweak things (both aesthetically and functionally). Stay tuned for next time where I go over some other Addons that are more quality-of-life UI enhancements.